Is Google Selling Organic Search Positions?

10 replies
  • SEO
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My business partner is convinced that employees at Google have gone rogue and are selling organic SERP positions.

I used to think he was crazy, but after looking at the SERPS for the past 6 months, I'm starting to think he may be onto something.


I have an SEO client in the International Dating niche so I follow the SERPS pretty closely for a big set of those keywords.

Over the past 6 months the search results have been infested with a network of sites, all owned by the same company. These sites are dominating for all the prime keywords in the niche.

I've found 13 of the sites so far and more pop into the SERPS every day.

Here are the current top 5 results for the search term "mail order brides"

Everything except appears to be owned by the same company.

Here are the current top 5 search results for the term "Asian mail order brides"

Everything except appears to be owned by the company.

The content on these sites is terrible, they are ranking based entirely on massive amounts of links from a super-spammy blog network.

According to Ahrefs the sites all share links from over 18,000 sites.

These are not 2019 style stealth PBN's built by Matt Diggity - they are 2009 style spam links with terribly spun content and titles like:

A Spotlight on No-Hassle Programs For Mail Order Brides
A Background In Factors In Free Mail Order Brides
The Options For Sensible Mail Order Brides Systems

This group of sites have been ranking for about 6 months now, and get stronger every day; Panda, Penguin, Fred, Medic and all the other updates just seem to pass right over them.

I did blackhat SEO back in the day - I was good at it - I made alot of money. And then I didn't...

Because Google found me out.

That was like 9 frigging years ago!

Has the Google algo really gotten that much worse?

Does Panda really not recognize this as spun text:

"In this specific article, we highlight for you personally a few of the most essential recommendations that will help live a pleased life along with your Russian spouse; simply use them and wait for amazing outcomes!"

Let's get this out there before we proceed - YES - I absolutely HATE Google and think that their Motto "Don't Be Evil" is the biggest pile of crap since "Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer"

BUT - I know they have alot of smart people working for them. If they wanted to uncover this network of sites - they probably could.

So, why haven't they?

Let's look at this from another angle...

Why would "The Company" spend tens of thousands of dollars building these crappy sites and Spammy links if they knew they could be hit by Panda or Penguin, Fred or some other update at any minute.

I live in fear of getting links from anyone except maybe - my finger is poised above the google disavow tool most days ready to placate the Penguins bots - so why the f--- aren't these guys worried?

They just keep churning out these crappy sites - all using the same basic content?

So, now back to my original thesis - is it possible that someone at Google is selling SERPS?

I'm not saying this is an official Google policy.

But what if some dude in the search spam team just taps in a few lines of code - and BAM! Your site is Teflonized - no updates can touch you and you are free to pile on 18,000 spammy backlinks with no fear of retribution.

I would love to hear from anyone out there who knows a little bit about how Googles internal structure works.

And for all you Matt Cutts Fanboys out there - please keep your "Just Write Great Content"s to yourself - the adults are talking here...
#google #organic #positions #search #selling
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  • Profile picture of the author dave_hermansen
    I suppose anything is theoretically possible, but I think you're going to have a very hard time finding anyone who actually KNOWS "how Google's internal structure works".

    Your hypothesis is that there is some sort of "switch" (for lack of a better term) that can be thrown that overrides their algorithm and only does so for specific websites.

    I think that it is far more likely that buried in the plethora of crappy links, there are some that Google thinks are good ones (whether they really are or or not) and that the site that you are working with DOES NOT have the same number of those buried, more powerful links (again, whether they are actually good ones or not).

    Penguin ignores the spammy, crappy links these days, so they would have no negative effect on a site's ranking ability. As far as Panda goes, nobody ever said that an algorithm can check for grammar. They may not be the best written pieces of content in the world but if they can be understood and if users continue to engage well with the content, no matter how poorly it is written, it's not going to get "penalized" by Panda - an algorithmic filter that really is more about spammy, keyword stuffed content than anything else.
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  • Profile picture of the author michaelswengel
    I seriously doubt they would. I think it's more likely that this "network" is using tactics that are - for the moment - effective. How it plays out for them in the long run, however, remains to be seen.

    I think it's likely they will find a future algorithm update destroys their rankings.
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  • Profile picture of the author Ettienne
    No, Google isn't selling organic results. And yes, blackhat is alive and well.
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  • Profile picture of the author burnsai
    Thanks for the comments

    First off - Yes, I am very aware that Blackhat SEO is alive and well in 2019 (I am seriously considering rejoining the Blackhat ranks myself!) But - this is such an egregious case I just can't believe there is not something more going on here.

    1. @dave_hermansen - You are right - the sites themselves are very nice looking and while the content is not great, the layout is pretty slick. BUT - all of the sites that link to this network use spun content that Panda would have no problem identifying; they literally use around 5 source articles to feed thousands of different pages. Panda is pretty good at spotting spun content (I know from personal experience) So, links from those pages should not be counted.

    2. Penguin looks for link spam, and perhaps I am giving the algo too much credit but 18,000 links directed at a new site in under 4 months would certainly be an indication of spam. As would 20 percent exact match anchor text ratios for high value keywords - which many of these sites have.

    3. Google has spent alot of time and money trying to ferret out private blog networks, so I assume they have a special Algo that does just that (don't know if they have a cute name for it yet) certainly having 13 sites dominating the top SERPs in a niche, all using links from the same network would leave a Tyranasouraus Rex sized footprint.

    While I have been out of the Blackhat world for a while - I do still read quite a bit from guys who are still banking with PBNs and other shady link building tactics and they are all so incredibly paranoid about even the tiniest footprint - and they write 6,000 word articles on Anchor Text Ratios and how to not over-optimize.

    So, if the experts are worried about this stuff, why aren't the guys building these spammy sites worried about it?

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  • Profile picture of the author skylikemake
    I don't think so, but to be honest, nobody knows, but Google itself
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  • Profile picture of the author Sven300
    1) I knew someone who worked in Google's spam department. He told me that he could not answer my questions because they had to sign very demanding confidentiality agreements.

    So I strongly doubt that we can know one day how Googles internal structure works.

    And the day we will know it, it will be outdated information.

    2) But this guy told me something else, he told me that under certain circumstances the sites could be evaluated manually by humans rather than by algorithms. And that these human evaluations dominated any evaluation made by an algo. Would it be possible for some of these employees to be dishonest and to be paid to favor a specific company? We have seen employees of all kinds of companies or any type of government service do that. So it would not surprise me if that is possible.

    3) But as others have said, it may be that it is simply because there are very valid links among the band of bad links.
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  • Profile picture of the author burnsai
    Here is another enticing piece of information for you non-believers.

    We work with a high end Ukrainian Matchmaker who sets up rich American men with some of the most beautiful Ukrainian women you have ever seen - we are talking FHM Model quality - the kind of women who could make men do really stupid things.

    She told my partner that she has had at least a dozen Googlers visit her in the Ukraine to meet single women.

    The network of sites is run by a Ukrainian company so it's not a stretch to imagine one of these women is associated with the Spam Company in some way - and asked (really nice) one of these Googlers to do her uncle Vlad a favor.

    As for the theory that there are some great links mixed in with the 18,000 spammy links.... Well, I have not looked at all 18,000 links but the thousands I have looked at are all complete crap. They are the kind of links you would use for negative SEO.

    I suppose it is possible that they built 17,950 links as camouflage to discombobulate guys like me - and immediately disavowed them all. Now that I have examined the links more closely it appears that they are also doing classic negative SEO on themselves with spam anchors like: Viagra, Porn, XXX. I know it is them because they started long before the guys even ranked for anything.

    Anyway, the purpose of this post was to see if anyone was seeing similar unexplainable results in the SERPS - but I suppose it wouldn't really matter anyway. I have submitted 3 spam complaints to no avail and when I posted on Google webmaster forum all I got was some jackass moderator calling me a child pornographer.

    So, perhaps it is time to adopt the attitude of - If ya can't beat 'em - join 'em and take this discussion over to blackhat world to get some advice on how to duplicate this technique.
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    • Profile picture of the author dave_hermansen
      Originally Posted by burnsai View Post

      So, perhaps it is time to adopt the attitude of - If ya can't beat 'em - join 'em and take this discussion over to blackhat world to get some advice on how to duplicate this technique.
      Please keep up us updated on how that works out for you - in the short term and in the long run.
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  • Profile picture of the author Rob Dean
    Probably it could be due to algorithm updates. Keep checking with other keywords.
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  • Profile picture of the author Radhika Shah
    black hat SEO is still alive and it will be.
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